When we think about who we were in second grade or as a baby or even last week, we assume all our old selves have somehow dissolved into who we are now, similar to how a ball of clay can be reshaped from an ashtray to a cup. But what if this isn’t the case? What if those past selves stay around? The account below explores exactly that. —Yi Izzy Yu
The following experience occurred in 2016, when I was in eighth grade, shortly before my classmates and I were scheduled to take our high school entrance exams.
This was a very hectic and stressful time. Everyone was worried about the exams. Additionally, our classes were moved into a whole new building because our usual building was now being used as a test center.
Our days were very long too. Since exams were coming up, after day classes were finished, we took a short afternoon break and then had to return to school until late into the night to study for the exams.
After one such night study session, just as everyone was preparing to leave, a girl a couple of rows in front of me started acting upset.
At first, I ignored the girl. I was focused on studying, and I didn’t want to be nosy. But when she started crying, I went over to see if I could help. Several other students went to check on her too. When we asked what was wrong, she pointed to her deskmate, a guy that we all knew well—since we’d all been classmates since we were little kids. The girl said he’d lost his memory.
Initially, we thought the guy was joking around. But we could tell something was actually wrong when he spoke.
Wearing a lost expression, he asked us in a frightened way what he was doing in this room and why we all looked so different.
We asked him what the heck he was talking about. That’s when he insisted that he was a sixth-grader—not the eighth-grader we knew him to be. According to his memory, a few minutes before he put his head down to rest. When he raised it again, everything was different. Our room. The seating order. Worst of all, the whole student body looked strikingly older.
Still not quite believing him, we asked a lot of questions about sixth grade. We figured that if he couldn’t answer them then he was messing around with us. But he correctly described our seating arrangement in sixth grade. And when we asked him who his girlfriend was, instead of naming the girl he was currently dating, Tang, he answered just as he would have in sixth grade. He said that he did not have a girlfriend, but if he could have one it would be Xue (the girl he had a crush on in sixth grade).
Confused and scared, we walked our classmate to our home teacher's office. By the time we got there, he had degenerated even further and ceased to speak in our dialect. While strange, this change made sense because he was originally a transfer student from Guangdong and hadn’t learned our dialect until seventh grade.
For the whole night, this incident was all we could talk about. However, when the boy recovered the next day, most people put it very quickly out of their minds. There were, after all, very important exams to take.
Me though? I couldn’t stop thinking about what happened.
It is incredible to me that part of this boy’s memory temporarily disappeared that night. Even more incredible is the fact that all the other selves we’ve ever been don’t entirely disappear or fade into old memories. Instead, they remain hidden inside us, alive and waiting for the chance to get out.
Copyright, 2021, All Right Reserved; by Yi Izzy Yu